THE world is not that far away from the second anniversary of the emergence of COVID-19.
Two years in which the world as we knew it has changed in a myriad of ways. Globally, 4.6 million people have died after contracting a virus that shows no sign of losing its strength.
In fact it's become stronger since it was first put under analysis, and new variants are following Delta.
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Australia's success in keeping case numbers low means that for most of us, the biggest impacts have been the lockdowns and other social restrictions, rather than the virus itself.
This is not to criticise these measures.
Still, knowing they are warranted doesn't make them any easier to accept, especially as this virtual home detention will likely continue for a while longer yet.
With much other entertainment out of bounds, the National Rugby League finals series that kicked off last night carries more importance than it otherwise would.
At a time when good news is thin on the ground, the Newcastle Knights are through to the finals for the second year running, in a do-or-die confrontation with the Parramatta Eels.
Newcastle's previous finals appearance before last year was in 2013, and the Knights collected three consecutive wooden spoons in six lean years in between.
Even if the Eels prevail on Sunday, this injury-ridden 2021 season should be considered a success.
But the players, the coach, the club and the fans want to see the Knights live to fight another day.
Tomorrow's game has been billed as a rematch of the 2001 grand final, in which the Knights went in as underdogs and came out champions, after blowing away the Eels in a first-half blitz of points.
Parramatta are again firm favourites.
The Knights are undeniably title long-shots, but a win tomorrow would put Our Town in mind of the team's inaugural premiership in 1997, when the mercurial Andrew Johns engineered a last-gasp try by Darren Albert to take the lead against Manly for the only time in the match.
That game, and the scenes in the Hunter before, during and after the match, are the stuff of history.
In a sublime piece afterwards, Newcastle Herald sports journalist Kevin Cranson wrote: "Do not believe that this was just a football game; this was a defining moment in our town's history."
Now, a new generation of Knights have it in their power to create their own legend.
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